Business Services Policies

BS14 Penn State Purchasing Card

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

University Financial Officers,

Policy Steward: 

Chief Procurement Officer



To set forth the regulations to be observed in using the Penn State Purchasing Card, and the responsibilities that are to be assumed by individuals who purchase materials and authorized services using this procedure.


The Penn State Purchasing Card is intended to be a controlled, convenient and efficient means of transacting University business and shall be recognized as a special assignment of a portion of the approval authority of the budget administrator and Financial Officer as set forth in Policy FN18 and subject to the limitations of this purchasing card policy.

The Penn State Purchasing Card is the only credit card authorized to be used for the purchase of goods and services chargeable directly to the University. The application for, and the use of, any other credit card that places the University in financial liability is prohibited.

NOTE: Issuance of a Purchasing Card to an individual grants that cardholder the authority to make purchases using the Purchasing Card for valid and reasonable University business purposes. Individuals who make purchases on personal credit cards or use other personal funds, do so outside the authority granted by the purchase card agreement and are not assured of reimbursement. The Financial Officer shall determine on a case by case basis, on consultation with the budget administrator, if purchases made by an individual from personal funds are valid, reasonable and reimbursable. A purchase may be valid and reasonable and NOT reimbursable.

The Penn State Purchasing Card may only be used to acquire goods, materials, authorized services and/or travel-related expenditures, including group meeting and meal expenses, necessary for the ongoing operation of the University. Purchases for personal use are strictly prohibited.

Except for classes of items listed under Specific Restrictions below, goods, materials, authorized services and/or travel-related expenditures up to the cardholder's limit per transaction (including delivery, shipping, or special handling charges) may be charged on the Penn State Purchasing Card. The maximum transaction limits are set forth in procedure PC2009, Penn State Purchasing Card, but may be set lower for any cardholder.

Purchases made with the Purchasing Card are specifically restricted by the conditions spelled out in the agreement signed by the employee approved to hold the Purchasing Card, and do not require prior Department of Purchasing Services' approval for each transaction. Purchasing Cards are not to be used to circumvent General Stores or standard purchasing procedures. Multiple Purchasing Card purchases are not to be used to circumvent the regular Purchasing Card limits.

GOODS & SERVICES: The authorized individuals to whom cards are issued for goods & services transactions are responsible for receiving the material and services, and forwarding purchase documentation evidencing the transaction to the reconciler (designated by the Financial Officer). The reconcilers are responsible for assuring that suitable documentation of the transaction has been obtained and are responsible for reconciling the documentation against the transaction data provided to the University from the card-issuing bank. Additional obligations for cardholders and reconcilers appear in Purchasing Card Procedure PC2009, and on agreements exhibited in that procedure.

TRAVEL & GROUP MEALS/MEETINGS: The authorized individuals to whom cards are issued for travel & group meals/meetings are responsible for settling the charges in the Employee Reimbursement System (ERS) or an authorized delegate may settle the charges. The travel settlement in ERS will follow an appropriate approval path, including the budget administrator and Financial Officer to assure compliance with policy and procedure. If amounts are due to the cardholder, a direct deposit will be made to the cardholder's bank account. If a net amount is due for all travel settled in ERS, the net amount will be deducted from the cardholder's paycheck at the end of the month.

The Penn State Purchasing Cards remain the property of the University and can be recalled at any time. If the employee to whom it is issued leaves the University or is transferred within the University, the card must be cancelled, and the plastic card cut in half or otherwise destroyed - it may not be transferred or reissued. Refer to "Return of Cards" section in procedure PC2009, available in GURU.


The Purchasing Card has specific restrictions on the types of goods and services which may be purchased. 



Transactions on the Purchasing card may not be split into multiple transactions, or deferred into several billings, to circumvent purchasing card limits or year-end purchasing procedures. Likewise, it is not permissible to use several purchasing cards within a department to make a purchase that in total exceeds the University maximum transaction limit for the purchasing card.


Per FN10, itemized receipts are required for all group meals/meetings. All group meals, whether conducted during travel or while on campus, must be entered into ERS. The information required to support the group meal (location, attendees, business purpose) must be entered into ERS for review and approval by the budget administrator and financial officer. The same holds true for group meeting expenditures.


Travel may be charged to a Purchasing Card if the cardholder has signed the Purchasing Card agreement for travel. Cardholders with Travels & Group Meal/Meeting card spending limits should be familiar with University Policy TR02 Penn State Travel.


Cellular monthly charges for University-owned cellular devices, as allowable under Policy FN21, are permitted. See Policy FN21 for specific details.


Purchasing cards may not be used to make deferred or installment payments, except for monthly subscription services, such as Internet research services or telecommunications services (see Cellular Services above). For these services that are billed monthly, a recurring automated payment may be allowable so long as business need is periodically reviewed and receipts or invoices are received on a monthly basis from the vendor.


Purchasing Cards may not be used to purchase a card, certificate, token, or any other item having a monetary value which may be redeemed for cash, credit or merchandise for the purpose of circumventing University purchasing and purchasing card policies or deferring expenses. In addition, Purchasing Cards may not be used to load value on other cards such as the Penn State id+ Card. However, gift/merchandise cards and certificates are allowable only to the extent specified by the "Gift" provision of policy FN18. The use of gift/merchandise cards and certificates should be reviewed and approved by the Financial Officer prior to purchase. Per FN10, gifts for employees are not permissible from any University funds.


With the exception of frequent flier mileage and preferred hotel programs, rebates or purchase incentives that are obtained as a result of a purchase made with the Purchasing Card belong to the University. This also includes any tangible, non-cash items offered and received. Non-cash items with a value of $25 or more must be reported to the Financial Officer so proper recording (receipt and disposition) of the item can be made. Rebates should be credited to the account to which the original transaction that generated the rebate was charged. Cash items must be credited to an appropriate University account per the Financial Officer's direction. Purchase incentives, coupons or certificates for discounts on future purchases must be turned into the department for future use by the University.


The department or individual authorized may select the vendor who can best supply the item(s)/services required. Cardholders are strongly encouraged to use internal sources and contract vendors. The Department of Purchasing Services maintains a list of vendors under contract to supply the University at discounted rates. Visit the Travel Services website for information on "designated travel sources" for various travel services. Cardholders are also strongly encouraged to use small, women owned and minority vendors whenever their prices are competitive.


Employees who wish to apply for a Purchasing Card must first successfully complete the Purchasing Card on-Line Tutorial and Cardholder Certification Quiz and electronically agree to the Purchasing Card Cardholder Agreement during the certification process.

Approval for obtaining a University Purchasing Card is then processed on an IBIS form Add Purchasing Card Authorization "APCA." The budget administrator or budget executive and Financial Officer for the unit must approve the form, including the appropriate purchase transaction types and spending limits, before a purchasing card will be issued. Approvers have the authority to set lower limits than the University maximums for any card.


Only current active employees are eligible for a purchasing card and only upon approval of the appropriate department. When an employee retires or terminates, the purchasing card must be cancelled through the UPCA form. Cards may also be cancelled at the discretion of the unit which issued the card to the employee.

Emeritus and retired faculty/staff may be eligible to retain a purchasing card for goods and services transactions, but this must be formally approved by the unit Budget Executive based on a documented business need. The Financial Officer will be responsible for obtaining and retaining documented approval. Emeritus and retired faculty may not retain travel limits on purchasing cards, even if retention of the purchasing card is approved for goods and services.



Documentation that confirms the goods, materials or authorized services were ordered and received, and the amount of the transaction must be obtained by the card holder. (Refer to Procedure PC2009 for a description of what constitutes acceptable documentation).

For Purchasing Card acquisitions, the card holder is responsible for the following:

  • verifying that the receipts and support form pertaining to ordered material or services accurately depicts the transaction including the amounts paid,
  • marking on the support form the authorized accounts to which the transaction should be charged ,
  • ensuring the support form contains the description of the purchased item or services (what was purchased),
  • noting the purpose of the acquisition on the support form (why it was purchased- business purpose),
  • signing the receipt when not already signed to indicate that goods and services were received, and
  • signing the support form as verification that the information on the support form is correct.

The original purchase documentation is always to be given to the departmental reconciler for additional processing. The purchasing card transaction 'P-number' is to be noted on any other settlement forms. The purchase documentation must be maintained by the department or in the Financial Officer's area (at the discretion of the Financial Officer). Documentation for transactions posted to federal or federal flow-through accounts must be retained for 7 years after the termination date of the award. For all other transactions, the retention is the current fiscal year + 3 years.


Refer to the University Travel Policy for specific instructions involving travel.


Arrangements for Purchasing Card purchases that must be returned to the vendor are the responsibility of the cardholder. Additional follow up by the cardholder is required to verify that the vendor issues credit documentation and that it is properly processed through VISA. Merchandise may not be returned for a cash refund.


A Purchasing Card is considered compromised if it is lost or stolen, or if an unauthorized transaction(s) by an unknown third party is processed against the card. All compromised cards must be dealt with as described in Procedure PC2009.


Additional cardholder obligations appear in Procedure PC2009, and on the Designated User Form (Purchasing Card Cardholder Agreement) exhibited in that procedure.

Misuse of the purchasing card by the cardholder or others who they have authorized to use their card will result in disciplinary action, which is detailed in Procedure PC2009. Misuse is broadly defined as using the card in violation of University policy and procedure. The following are examples of misuse of the purchasing card:

  • Using the purchasing card for personal purchases or for purchases that would not be authorized by the University,
  • Using the purchasing card to purchase any goods or services which violate policies or procedures of the University, including those items listed in this policy as specific restrictions for the purchasing card, or which violate any law or regulation to which the University must adhere,
  • Splitting a transaction to circumvent the transaction limit authorized for the cardholder's card,
  • Using multiple cards to circumvent the transaction limit authorized for the cardholder's card,
  • Failing to provide required purchasing documentation in a timely manner ( unless there are extenuating circumstances, within 30 days of purchase for goods & services or within 60 days for travel & group meals/meetings; 30 days if charges are on restricted funds and is completed in the last month of the sponsored agreement ),
  • Failing to provide, when requested, information about any specific purchase.

Misuse of the purchasing card by the cardholder or those authorized by the cardholder to make purchases on their card, can result in sanctions being placed on a cardholder. These are listed in Procedure PC2009, and can range from suspension or cancellation of the card to more severe disciplinary action such as termination.

By signing the cardholder agreement, the cardholder gives the University permission to withhold from University pay an appropriate amount including processing fees to cover any unsubstantiated charges or other misuse of the purchasing card. The decision to assess a cardholder's paycheck would only be acted upon after complete multiple review of the situation by the financial officer, consultation with the budget administrator/department head and budget executive and additional review by the Office of Budget and Finance. A description of the sanctions and the process leading to the withholding of pay is described in Procedure PC2009 and on the Designated User Form (Purchasing Card Cardholder Agreement).


The Assistant Controller/Financial Officers together with the Purchasing Card Coordinator must approve in writing any exceptions to this policy and to Procedure PC2009.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Associate Vice President, Auxiliary & Business Services.


Other Policies may apply, especially:

BS16 - Limited Order

FN10 - Other Business Expenses and Activities

FN11 - Contracts and Leases

FN14 - Use of University Tangible Assets, Equipment, Supplies and Services

FN16 - Interdepartmental Transactions

FN21 - Cellular Services (Formerly Non-Office Telecommunications Services)

University Travel Policy

Effective Date: March 10, 2016

Approval Date: March 10, 2016

Date Published: March 10, 2016 (Editorial change, June 14, 2017)


Most Recent Changes:

  • January 5, 2023 – Editorial changes.  Changed all references to the Office of the Corporate Controller to the Office of Budget and Finance, per the directive of the Associate Vice President for Finance and corrected hyperlinks

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • June 14, 2017- Editorial change in the SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS section (Travel), removing the reference to "travel booked through designated travel sources”per the directive of the Purchasing Card Director, as there are no longer “designated travel sources” for Purchasing Cards.
  • March 10, 2016- A new section entitled CARD ELIGIBILITY has been added to clarify eligibility criteria and required approvals. Edits have also been made to CELLULAR SERVICES, DEFERRED PURCHASES and CARDHOLDER MISUSE sections to clarify current operations.
  • February 17, 2016- Editorial changes. Non-Office Telecommunication Services section renamed Cellular Services, to coincide with changes to policy FN21. Verbiage in the section edited; prior reference to "Cellular phone" and other non-office telecommunication monthly charges" revised to say "Cellular devices" monthly charges.
  • October 25, 2013 - Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • June 8, 2009 - Editorial changes; removed reference to Guideline FNG06 (obsoleted and replaced by new FN10).
  • April 1, 2009 - Editorial changes; in the "Obtaining A University Purchasing Card" section, changed Designated User Form reference to Purchasing Card Cardholder Agreement, including the appropriate link to the agreement form.
  • December 18, 2008 - Revisions to the "Maintenance of Records- Goods & Services" section, clarifying cardholder responsibilities.
  • June 25, 2008 - Major changes throughout the policy, per revisions to current procedure and the establishment of the new Travel Policy and the Employee Reimbursement System.
  • November 2, 2005
    • Purchasing Cards may not be used to load value on other cards.
    • Card no longer has to be returned to Purchasing Services upon an employee leaving or being transferred within the University; the card must be destroyed.
    • The "user agreement" is now the Designated User Form.
    • Terminology under the MAINTENANCE OF RECORDS changed from "documentation" to "receipts".
  • October 21, 2002 -
    • Moved all Purchasing Card limits to the Procedure PC2009.
    • Added provision that the Penn State Purchasing Card is the only credit card authorized to be used for the purchase of goods and services chargeable directly to the University.
    • Added encouragement to use small, women owned, and minority vendors whenever their prices are competitive.
    • Moved exclusions/inclusions of use to separate addendum.
    • Prohibited the purchase of prepaid items except for gift/merchandise cards and certificates under certain circumstances.
    • The section "Cardholder Misuse" was added to indicate what constitutes misuse and the process for dealing with misuse.
    • Except for frequent flier mileage, all rebates and purchase incentives belong to the University.
    • Cellular phone charges exclusion changed to 'Non-Office Telecommunications' to cover all categories of telecommunications away from an employees office. Purchasing Card is allowable for monthly fees, but not installation.
    • Emphasized that employee individual meals while on travel status are not permitted.
    • Successful completion of the Purchasing Card On-line Tutorial and Certification Quiz are now required before the formal request for the issuance of a Purchasing Card can be processed.
    • The budget administrator or budget executive and Financial Officer for the unit must approve the form before a purchasing card will be issued.
    • The budget administrator or budget executive have the authority to set lower limits than the University maximums for any card.
    • Purchasing Card may now be used under certain circumstances for travel booked through Penn State's travel self-booking system, PSU-designated contract travel agencies, or PSU Travel Services and for certain other travel expenses.
    • Prohibited the purchase of wall-to-wall or glued down carpet.
    • Clarified eligible rental items.
    • Added controls over deferred purchases and multiple/split transactions.
    • Prohibited the purchase of prepaid items except for gift/merchandise cards and certificates under certain circumstances.
    • The section "Cardholder Misuse" was added to indicate what constitutes misuse and the process for dealing with misuse.
    • Moved the details for the process of handling compromised cards from this policy to Procedure PC2009.
    • The Assistant Controller/Financial Officers together with the Purchasing Card Coordinator must approve in writing any exceptions to this policy and to Procedure PC2009.
    • Reorganization of the sections of this policy.
  • January 4, 1999 - Transaction limit raised to $2,000; cellular phone charges added as an exception.
  • June 5, 1988 - Cylinder Gas exception modified to allow liquid nitrogen and helium; deleted requirement of having the Group Meal form route through the Financial Officer; changes to the Maintenance of Records section
  • March 1998 - Relabeled from PC09 to BS14.
  • August 22, 1997 -
    • Postage exclusion added.
    • Other than for travel, employees may not use personal credit cards and seek reimbursement.
    • Cylinder gases permitted at non-UP and non-HY locations.
    • Capitalized equipment excluded (Object Codes 705, 710, and 715).
    • Temporary Services exclusion added.
  • October 21, 1996 - New Purchasing Card policy.